Life is harder than I thought it would be when I was a kid.
Against my better judgment, I went shopping today. I haven’t bought anything yet, and I might not. I’m pretty picky, which is good, considering I really don’t need another handbag or top or book. It’s allergy season and I’ve got a headache; and my stomach is a little queasy. I probably should have stayed home, but I had to get out. That’s a weakness of mine; I go absolutely crazy if I don’t get out of my home at least once a day.
(Interesting side note: I need foot surgery, and the main reason I’m postponing it as long as I can, is the recovery period. I think about being, not only locked up at home for about 4 to 6 weeks, but actually confined to bed for 2 weeks – and I shudder. No exaggeration.)
Oh, I wish I had someone to confide in. Why am I always the one that has to keep a cool head while other people need comforting? when is it going to be my turn to have a real meltdown, let it all out, cry until I’m ugly and say all the things that can’t be unsaid?
I went all the way across town to do this. I’m sitting in the cafe of a bookstore not that far from where I lived the last time I was single (12 years now.) Did I feel like I had to get out of the neighborhood I live in now, where I’m coupled? There’s a branch of the same bookstore there, but in my own present neighborhood, everybody who works in the local stores knows me as part of a couple. Here, in my old stomping grounds, I think I feel the ghost of who I used to be. I think that’s a good thing. I’m glad she’s still there. I think I need the woman I used to be. Those were pretty good days.
Am I going crazy, or is my heart breaking, or both? I wonder if I would do things differently if I could rewind back in time about 12 years. When my man asked me to move in with him, I had doubts about actually doing it. I was afraid living together and getting domesticated would ruin things. For about 2 years, we even had a long-distance relationship, due to me taking a job out of town; we lived about 100 miles apart and saw each other on weekends. I think now those were the best 2 years of my life. Our weekends were magical. Now, he spends evenings either on his computer or playing guitar, and I spend evenings reading, watching TV, and sometimes on the computer. And on weekends, we both go out somewhere – but separately. That isn’t how it used to be. And I can’t quieten the little voice inside of me that says, “I was afraid this would happen.”
Why does domesticity have such a lure? Especially for women, and especially when we’re younger. I think a lot of it is the way we’re all brought up, the way families in our culture live. I had the classic two-parent family with (probably) one of the last stay-at-home moms; we lived in the suburbs where nothing interesting ever happened, except minor disputes with the neighbors and the school system. And yet, we worshipped that way of life, we idealized it. I think I believed I was supposed to do all the things my mother did (marry early, have children, live in the suburbs, etc.) – and so did a lot of other young girls, although by the 70s things were changing, and some of my friends’ mothers worked and got divorced and lived very differently.
My own aunt, my mother’s sister, lived differently. She was married, but she didn’t have children until her late 30s, and she and her husband traveled and had an active social life and all sorts of adventures. And maybe she would have been a better role model for me than my own mother was. (Not to put down my mother – she was and is an excellent mother. But she probably wasn’t the best role model for the sort of life I’ve had.) And in my family, we don’t talk much, but we can have whole discussions silently, without anyone saying a word. It was understood that I found my aunt interesting, but I also understood very well that I was supposed to turn out like my mother, not my aunt. And that was that.
I wasn’t much like my mother. I may be a throwback, to my grandmother, my great-grandmother, both of whom were sensual, sexy women who got into trouble with men. I’ve been in and out of trouble with men ever since I hit puberty (at an early age, which compounded the problems.) I was a smart kid, teachers always said so; but I never felt like I was particularly good at anything. Nothing really gave me that “this is it” feeling – until I started getting to know guys. And I found out that what I really, really love more than anything else on this planet (and what I’m really, really good at) – is making out and fooling around.
And neither my mother nor my aunt was any help at all. Since I can’t read minds, and since in my family, we don’t talk openly about things, all I knew about them was what they told me and things I overheard. And they both seemed to me like they didn’t like the sexual side of life much at all. They made it sound like this ridiculous thing men like for some reason, and you have to do
it to keep your husband happy. So I’ve never, at any time in my life, felt like I could ask either of them for advice about my love life.
My grandmother was slightly more help, but by the time I discovered that, I was in my early 20s and embroiled in a mess of a relationship. And you know how some things are just going to happen? They seem to be programmed, like a train that’s going on a particular route and stopping at specific stations. That’s how that relationship was. So I’m not sure her advice would have helped me with that situation. (Although some of her advice has been useful at other times. She’s been deceased for 21 years, and I still wish I could talk to her and ask her for advice sometimes.)
And I did *try* to turn out the way I thought I was supposed to turn out – I really did. I said no to guys when I wanted to say yes. (Although not every single time, as my parents would have wished.) I tried to do things women are supposed to do to achieve the goal of the steady husband, the house in the suburbs, and all the rest of it. But I look back on my life and I can’t help thinking maybe that was never meant to be for me – even if I could have gone through with it, I think I would have been miserable.
I was actually married for six years. And if I’d been more determined to stick to the script, I’d probably be living in a house in the suburbs and have a couple of kids. But dealing with my husband could be like swimming through lard sometimes. I had to nag him for three years to get the ugly wallpaper off the walls of our condo and get it painted off-white. My next goal was going to be the ugly carpeting, but you know, by that time, I just didn’t have the energy. Because I had to keep at him about it, something that I thought would be sort of fun – decorating our place, and then finding a house – turned into a tedious, horrible, time-consuming chore. I correct what I said earlier – if I hadn’t given up on him, I wouldn’t have had the house in the suburbs for “years” by now. At the pace he did things, we would just be moving into it right about now. I know I’m not the most patient person in the world, but how patient do you have to be?
That was far from being the only problem with that marriage. Long story short, I shouldn’t have married him in the first place; I did a disservice to both of us. And I’m the one that should have known better, because he was less sophisticated than me about these things.
Whatever it is inside me that isn’t good at domestic things, prefers the city to the suburbs, likes other people’s kids until they start to whine, loves kissing and making out and making love better than anything else on earth – that side of me ALWAYS comes back sooner or later. Always. I’m just not a good bet for the house-in-the-suburbs scenario.
And I feel like that makes me a bad woman, because I didn’t turn out like my mother; because maybe I’m better to have as a girlfriend than as a wife; because I seem to have trouble mating in captivity.
Posted by SmartKat at 13:33 on April 7th, 2013 at 1:33PM
1-1 of 1 Comments
Posted on 01:59PM on Apr 7th, 2013
I identified with so many things you wrote. From some of the logistical items (I am putting off knee surgery and have been for about a year.) to the philosophical ones.
I hate being the only one who can keep it together in my house. I have to be the shoulder to cry on, or the person who says it’s all going to be ok. And if I even hint that I’m getting close to my limit emotionally, everyone else starts to collapse. It’s a lot of pressure.
It’s not even just emotions. I take care of them when they’re sick. And if I start to get sick, everyone jumps in and we’re all sick. It feels so selfish but I just want to be sick by myself.
Sex talk from your Mom and Aunt? Ouch. This ridiculous thing you need to do to make men happy. Well, at least half of that is true.
I have the “I never thought I’d end up here” conversation with myself on a regular basis. I know music lyrics convey thoughts for you, so maybe you’ll understand this? I probably hear “100 Years” by Five for Fighting in my head a few times a week.
Life goes so fast. And as the amount of years I have left gets smaller, I feel this urge to tell everyone to screw off and do what I want, when I want.
My comment doesn’t really do justice to what you wrote. Thanks for your usual thoughtful piece.